Monitoring whistleblowing in NSW depends on good reporting and compliance

13 Dec 2021

A NSW Ombudsman’s report on public sector whistleblowing shows that investigating agencies (which include the ICAC, the Ombudsman and the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission) received almost a thousand (964) public interest disclosures (PIDs) in the 2020-21 financial year.

Most (679) were made to ICAC by heads of public sector agencies who are required by law to report evidence of possible corrupt conduct.

In addition, public authorities received 345 internal reports of wrongdoing from their own staff. Consistent with previous years, the primary form of wrongdoing identified is alleged corrupt conduct (80%, 275).

The Oversight of the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 - Annual Report 2020-21, presented to Parliament today by NSW Ombudsman Paul Miller, highlights the ongoing importance of whistleblowing as a means of exposing corrupt conduct and other forms of wrongdoing.

“This year has seen some significant accomplishments,” said Mr Miller. “The new Public Interest Disclosures Bill (PID Bill) was introduced into Parliament in October. We hope it will better support a culture where public officials are encouraged to report serious wrongdoing with confidence that they will be protected.”

However, the report also raises concerns that not all public authorities are complying with their obligations under the current PID Act to report information about PIDs to the NSW Ombudsman.

“The accuracy of the data we report relies on all public authorities properly identifying and recording internal disclosures of wrongdoing as PIDs.’ Mr Miller said. “Where this is not the case, the number of PIDs being made in NSW is likely to be under-reported.”

The NSW Ombudsman oversights the PID Act, including monitoring, auditing and reporting on the exercise of functions by public authorities under the Act. During the reporting period, the Ombudsman’s work included an external training program and an audit of 6 local councils.